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Brad Mehldau finds common ground between diverse artists and musical styles.

Pianist Brad Mehldau, one of the most creative and commercially viable forces in contemporary jazz music, will return to Tucson for an intimate solo gig on Thursday, Feb. 27. The Tucson Jazz Society will present the show in the Tucson Convention Center's Leo Rich Theatre.

Mehldau's elegant, fascinating style provides the missing link that connects the jagged melodies of Thelonious Monk with the gentle lyricism of Bill Evans, while adding the influences of timeless pop and rock. He is also influenced greatly by the pensive compositions of such classicists as Brahms, Chopin and Satie.

Finding commonalities among disparate artists, he covers the Beatles, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Radiohead. He writes original avant-garde jazz material and experiments with drum and bass rhythms. All of the above is on display on Mehldau's latest album, the masterly Largo (Warner Bros., 2002).

Born in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1970, Mehldau was classically trained as a child and raised under the influence of pop, jazz and rock. He studied at the Berklee School of Music and at the New School of Social Research, and he apprenticed with Jimmy Cobb in his band, Cobb's Mob.

In 1994, Mehldau played on the European tour of tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman's quartet, which also featured bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade. That tour marked Mehldau's official coming out into the jazz world. The next year, he saw the release of his debut album, Introducing Brad Mehldau.

Although Mehldau has well established his Brad Mehldau Trio (with partners bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jorge Rossy) on the jazz circuit, his gig here is a rare solo piano performance.

Mehldau has made nine albums as a leader, four of which were under his name alone, although only Elegaic Cycle, from 1999, was purely a work for solo piano.

Five of Mehldau's discs were part of his The Art of the Trio series, which has documented the preternatural communication of his collaborations with Grenadier and Rossy. Mehldau also recorded 1997's Alone Together, an amazing, knotty live set with legendary talents and ardent supporters Lee Konitz (saxophone) and Charlie Haden (bass).

Brad Mehldau will appear at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, in the Leo Rich Theatre at the Tucson Convention Center, 260 S. Church Ave. Tickets will be available at the door for $16 for the general public. Members of the Tucson Jazz Society get in for $12. Call 903-1265.

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